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Opinion Blogs
One Man's Opinion: Getting at the Root Cause of the Flood of Mass Shootings
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One Man's Opinion: Getting at the Root Cause of the Flood of Mass Shootings

One Man's Opinion: Getting at the Root Cause of the Flood of Mass Shootings
Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images
DAYTON, OHIO - AUGUST 04: Mourners leave flowers and candles at the entrance of Ned Peppers bar in the Oregon District following a memorial service to recognize the victims of a mass shooting early this morning on August 04, 2019 in Dayton, Ohio. Many of the victims were reported to have been shot in front of the bar. At least 9 people were reported to have been killed and another 27 injured when a gunman identified as 24-year-old Connor Betts opened fire with a AR-15 style rifle. The shooting comes less than 24 hours after a gunman in Texas opened fire at a shopping mall killing at least 20 people. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

One Man's Opinion: Getting at the Root Cause of the Flood of Mass Shootings

"I'm outraged, and you should be too. This entire nation should be outraged," said El Paso, Sheriff Richard Wiles in the wake of a mass shooting at a Walmart ending more than 20 lives. 

I suspect like many Americans, I am still a bit numb with the horrific news of the latest two back to back mass shootings, still ringing in the ears of local law enforcement in the border town of El Paso, Texas as well as in the heart of Ohio, Dayton. And as advocates on both sides of the gun control debate line up and open fire on each other across online spaces...I sit and wonder if this too isn't part of the division these shooters want to foment? A race war? A new civil war? 

Another young white male, another 'manifesto,' more than 30 innocent lives lost, dozens more injured...and where/when does it end? No one really has an answer for that, so perhaps we should try harder to determine where this is all beginning. 

I have spent in my volunteer life, much of the past few decades remaining engaged with college students, both through my alma mater, the Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia, as well as through my college fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, at both the local and national levels. Where much of college life remains the same, as campus culture and society evolve, I've noted a significantly general softening among my younger male counter-parts on most college campuses today, which has at times caused me both pause and concern. 

Alienation, non-socialization and remaining a virgin against one's will or life plans are powerful seeds planted towards building resentment and hatred. Who is to blame? How to reassert or change one's status? It's not difficult to see a pattern to fame and glory and even some degree of notoriety playing out an afternoon of Fortnite in the real world.

BagoGames/Flickr
Link to photo license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.
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One Man's Opinion: Getting at the Root Cause of the Flood of Mass Shootings

Photo Credit: BagoGames/Flickr
Link to photo license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.

For those unfamiliar, Fortnite (created in 2017) is an online video gaming platform with three separate games, each played by millions. Fortnite Battle Royale, which can be played simultaneously by as many as 100, pits player against player in a battle of survival of the fittest, ending when all but one player has been eliminated or killed. I have walked in on a few groups playing this game with great passion and enthusiasm, the gun play and swearing might only be louder at a convention among mercenaries of war. 

There will again be talk of gun control reform. However, Chicago, Illinois, with some of the most stringent gun laws in the nation, and also one of the world's highest rates of murder and violent crime, experienced dozens of separate shootings and nearly 40 deaths the same horrific weekend. Yes, we can revisit the law, but isn't it time we also re-visit how we raise our young men? 

I did not walk six miles to school, through the snow each day, barefooted...but household chores, mowing our lawn and part-time jobs became routine during what would have then been middle school years. Real life lessons of adversity, work ethic, dues paying, conflict resolution and accepting constructive criticism had all been learned well before the middle of high school. 

As a late Baby Boomer, we were also towards the end of the Selective Service and potential draft, which I'm not suggesting be re-instated, however I can see great benefit in renewing discussions of a year or two of national service work just after high school. As with serving in our nation's military, the common duty, common mission and shared surroundings might help serve as a great equalizer. 

We are yet entering fall of this year, and 125 Americans have already lost their lives in mass shootings. As schools start back, how many children are heading to their classrooms in fear, and how many parents are wondering if they have done enough to prepare their offspring for sudden attack? 

Whether or not you agree with it taking the whole village to raise a child, I'll wager a majority of you can well remember when your neighbors almost all knew one and other, and at times came to assist without ever being asked. Conflict is a part of life, and building coping skills for such challenges are as important as developing coordination, balance and muscle strength for sport. 

It is time for a national conversation and determining the root causes of this plague. If the Ebola virus or some other virulent strain attacked and killed a few hundred Americans in a period of months, we would fight back with all of our national will and unlimited resources. Finding this cure may take a bit longer, but certainly there are steps we can begin to take as soon as today to move us in a better and safer direction. Our sympathies and condolences to those grieving the lives lost. And prayers do matter as well.

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News

  • A 6-year-old Florida girl has died after she was shot in the head inside her Palm Bay home, according to police. Officers said the girl was shot in her home near Washington Street around 5 p.m. Tuesday, WFTV reported. She was initially taken to Holmes Regional Medical Center in critical condition. Police believe the shooting to be an accident involving siblings. Content Continues Below A man who identified himself as the girl’s uncle called the shooting “tragic and preventable.” Investigators are still working through all the details but said the little girl was in the apartment with an adult and another child when she was shot. Palm Bay police Lt. Michael Smith said police are not seeking a suspect, and officers are speaking to family and friends to determine what happened.
  • Several college students in Alabama who knew they had tested positive for the coronavirus still attended parties in Tuscaloosa, a city official said. Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith said his department discovered the students had been attending parties around the city and in Tuscaloosa County over the past few weeks, WBMA reported. Smith revealed the information before a City Council meeting Tuesday, the television station reported. Smith said his department investigated rumors and confirmed the unnamed students had tested positive through local doctors’ offices and the state health department. “We had seen over the last few weeks parties going on in the county, or throughout the city and county in several locations where students or kids would come in with known positives,” Smith said. “We thought that was kind of a rumor at first. ... we did some additional research. ... not only did the doctor’s offices help confirm it but the state confirmed they also had the same information.” Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry took it a step further, accusing students of organizing “COVID parties” to intentionally infect one another, ABC News reported. “They put money in a pot and they try to get COVID. Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot. It makes no sense,” McKinstry told the network. “They’re intentionally doing it.” The City Council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring people to wear face coverings while in public, hours after Smith addressed the lawmakers, WBMA reported.
  • Twenty-two years after Terrance Lewis was wrongfully convicted of second-degree murder, the city of Philadelphia awarded him nearly $6.3 million and a formal apology Tuesday. “The settlement can never repair or restore what has occurred in my life — period,” Lewis told WHYY, while also conceding the award left him “speechless” and that had he been standing when he received the news, his knees “would have buckled.” Lewis, now 41, was only 17 when he was sentenced to life in prison, and he spent 21 years fighting to prove his innocence before being released in May 2019 after Common Pleas Judge Barbara McDermott finally threw out the conviction, WPVI reported. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told WPVI the $6.25 million settlement can never give Lewis those years back, but it will fund his work to help others who are wrongly convicted. “I know that money alone cannot compensate Mr. Lewis and his family for the 21 years he spent incarcerated. And I know that much more must be done to reform our criminal justice system and to help the families and communities that have been torn apart by instances in which the system didn’t work,” Kenney said. Indeed, Lewis called the settlement a “kind gesture” but told WHYY that missing the funerals of several close family members during his incarceration can never be made right. “Up until this day, there’s still a hole in my heart that I wasn’t able to say my goodbyes,” Lewis said, referring to the 2012 death of his sister from a drug overdose and the 2013 deaths of both his younger brother and stepfather from cancer. In addition to ensuring his son, Zhaire, resumes his formal education, Lewis told WHYY he plans to build up the Terrance Lewis Liberation Foundation, which he founded to help others who have been released from prison after being wrongfully convicted. Read more here.
  • Stoney prevailed over Stonewall in Richmond on Wednesday. Mayor Levar Stoney, using his emergency powers, ordered the removal of the Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson statue from Monument Avenue, WTVR reported. Workers toiled through a thunderstorm to remove the statue of the Confederate general from its pedestal as hundreds of people watched, the television station reported. The dismantling of the statue took about 3 1/2 hours. In a statement, Stoney said he was using his emergency powers for the immediate removal of “multiple monuments in the city, including Confederate statues.” “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge, and protesters attempt to take down Confederate statues themselves or confront others who are doing so, the risk grows for serious illness, injury, or death,” Stoney said. The mayor was going against the advice from Richmond’s city attorney, and gave the order several hours after the City Council delayed a vote on removing the Jackson statues and three others owned by the city, The Washington Post reported. A fifth statue is owned by the state, the newspaper reported. Once the statue was removed from its pedestal, it was loaded onto a flatbed truck and taken to an “undisclosed location,” a worker at the scene told WRIC. The Republican Party of Virginia said a news release that Stoney did not have the legal authority to remove the statue and called the Democratic mayor’s action a “stunt” that fuels the flames of the violent and chaotic protests.” “Richmond is no longer run by the rule of law -- it has devolved into anarchy,” Jack Wilson, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, said in the release. “The loudest group of protesters or rioters are in control at any given moment. Caving to mob rule tells the mob that their violence and looting is the way to make change and that law and order is irrelevant.”
  • Enough was just enough for Derick Lancaster. In what has now become a viral tweet, Lancaster, 22, quit his job as a delivery driver for Amazon mid-shift, leaving the keys in the ignition of his van – still loaded with packages – at a gas station in a Detroit suburb and caught a Lyft home. “It was immature and irresponsible on my end. At the same time enough is enough,” Lancaster told WXYZ of the Monday afternoon tweet that, as of Tuesday, had more than 218,000 likes and had been shared more than 25,000 times. reported. Lancaster told WXYZ he was frustrated with the long hours, number of deliveries and pay because he often pulled nearly 12-hour shifts to deliver more than 100 packages for $15.50 per hour. The final straw, he said, was missing his sister’s birthday party. “She was real upset with me,” Lancaster told the TV station. “There is no set schedule.” Lancaster told the Free Press that being late to his sister’s graduation party – coupled with the constant pressure to deliver more packages faster – finally took its toll. “This does not reflect the high standards we have for delivery partners,” Amazon said in an email to the Free Press. “We are taking this matter seriously and have investigated the matter and are taking appropriate action.” Lancaster did return to the Marathon gas station in Lathrup Village several hours after his online tirade to wait for someone from Amazon to pick up the van, he told the newspaper.
  • Authorities in Mexico City said gunmen broke into a drug rehab center and opened fire on Wednesday, killing 24 people and wounding seven others, The Associated Press reported. Police in the state of Guanajuato said the attack occurred in Irapuato. Three of the seven wounded were in serious condition, according to the AP. Guanajuato has been the location of a bloody turf battle between the Jalisco cartel and a local gang, according to the AP. No motive was given for the attack. Check back for more on this developing story.